Rachel Hendry, who has been a friend, an unknowing mentor, a source of constant inspiration and a source of nearly-as-constant writing envy for almost two years now, recently wrote an incomplete list of 53 (I counted) things from which she derives joy through wine.
Since I have told you to at least five or six times in these pages you will already have subscribed to her J’Adore le Plonk newsletter and thus will have already read the list and thus I have no need to summarise it further than to say it was the usual blend of wonder and delight and whimsy and clarity and humour and intelligence and openness and emotion and occasional soft sadness and eloquence and maturity and vulnerability which invariably comprises her writing’s cuvée and which makes me want to boot my own tangled, overwrought prose into a bin and then read it all over again.
It was, and I told her so, the sort of list that I would love to write myself about one or several of the drinks that I adore. 53 reasons for joy – what a time to be alive! What could be better or more important? But, I concluded, any attempt on my part would inevitably collapse into an over-intellectualised, incoherent, grey-faced, too-serious shambles.
But then I thought: “its presumed inevitable collapse into an over-intellectualised, incoherent, grey-faced, too-serious shambles is a third-rate reason not to try and assess the ways in which something brings me joy”. And in any case, it’s my over-intellectualised, incoherent, grey-faced, too-serious shambles.
So, with a wave of grateful acknowledgement to Rachel (because it is important to acknowledge when you are making use of someone else’s homework) here follows my own inexhaustive list of the cider and perry-relatedness which brings me some modicum of joy.
That more varieties of apples and pears are used to make cider and perry than I will ever know.
The glittering arc that flies from a popped txotx barrel.
750 ml bottles passed around between friends.
330 ml cans kept for myself and drunk in a quiet moment in the garden.
The bottom barn at Ross on Wye.
The continued existence of Flakey Bark.
That I am in a WhatsApp group of close friends I would never have met but for cider.
Pouring a ridiculously good perry for someone who has never tasted the drink before.
Two parts Foxwhelp, one part ginger ale, over ice in the sunshine.
The Pomonas at the Museum of Cider in Hereford.
Every Domfront Poiré I have ever, ever, ever tasted ever.
Tasting cider out of whisky barrels when I have visited the whisky distillery they came from.
That an apple pip won’t grow into a tree of the variety it came from.
Deep, dark, dry, mature oak-cask ciders indoors on a stormy autumn night.
Drinking Strongbow in my old local back home.
Bittersweet cider from plastic cups on a hike.
Full-strength cider being barely half the alcohol content of wine.
That the language of cider and apple variety flavour is being created right now for the first time.
The sheer number of celebrity pets around the cider community.
The ‘psst’ sound when you pop the crown-cap of a perfectly-judged pét nat.
That no one has a clue what the ‘right’ glass for cider is, and that we’re all broadly fine with that.
Cider and especially perry pairing better with spicy food than Any Other Drink.
Commenting on mistletoe quantities in orchards I drive past when there is no one else in the car.
James Finch’s chopping board.
When someone messages about a cider or perry they have recently bought and enjoyed.
The fact that an apple tree of one variety will produce different-tasting fruit and thus different-tasting cider, however subtly, to an apple tree of the same variety grown in a different place.
That there is more extraordinary cider and perry in existence right now than there has ever been in the world at any previous point in history.
Ease of access to meeting cider and perrymakers being so, so, so much better than any other drink.
French cider bottles. Or any dumpy, old-timey cork and cage bottles without capsules. Bonus joy when covered in a light frosting of dust and stored horizontally.
Using cider in a recipe instead of wine.
Going to Legges in Bromyard specifically to buy fancy meats to pair with cider.
Finding amazing cider or perry unexpectedly at a pub or bar.
A pint with pork scratchings on the walk back from rehearsal.
The question: if wine is from wineries and cider is from cideries, where is perry from?
When my mother sends a WhatsApp telling me she served keeved cider at a dinner party.
People from cider social media stepping into real life at an event and saying hello.
The first glass of ice cider straight from the fridge, served in a tiny copita.
The as-yet-unfulfilled concept of a cider or perry slushie.
Drinking two different ciders or perries from the same apple or pear variety.
Matching the cider apple to the wine grape for no good reason at all.
The number of people who love single variety Foxwhelp now and the number of people complaining about the number of people who love single variety Foxwhelp now.
Referring to cider-beer co-ferments as snakebites.
That peaty ciders are a thing.
Perry pear trees that pre-date Waterloo (train station and battle).
Fresh-pressed juice the colour of sunset.
Everyone happily passing on the phrase ‘Napoleon called perry the champagne of the English’ despite there being no evidence for this happening whatsoever.
Comparing cider to rum. (Hit me up if you want a long discussion on the parallels between cider and rum. I have hot takes).
The number of apples and pears that one single tree can sometimes grow, and how big some of those apples get in just a few months.
The building in Germany modelled on a cider glass … and the glasses it’s modelled on.
Discovery cider or Thorn perry with a cup of KP salt and vinegar peanuts.
Thinking about cider and perry. About how far they have come. About how far they could still go. About the orchards which grow their fruit and the makers who transform them into fermented drinks. About the never-before-recorded flavours of varieties, and the way those varieties dance and sing together in a blend. About all the different places and ways in which cider and perry can be made. About how good they can be when someone takes the time and care to prove it. About how great ciders and perries deserve to be known about by so many, many more people. Thinking about all that excites me. It brings me joy. It makes me want to write about cider and perry again. So I’m going to. It’s time to come back.